10 October 2009

A Different Kind of Adventure

This blog is about adventuring. So here's an adventure that anyone can participate in! It doesn't require knowing how to start a fire in the rain, or how to keep up with 20-odd boy scouts on top of a mile-high mountain in Maine. It does require that you put away the iPod (and preferably the cell phone-PDA-Blackberry) and just enjoy yourself with friends, family, and especially the kids.

I just got home from spending last night and all of today at one of Richmond, Virginia's premiere annual events: the Richmond Folk Festival. It had a three year run as the National Folk Festival, and support and attendance was so keen, that it is now in its second year as the Richmond Folk Festival. Featuring six main stages and some 26 acts, it offers music from around the world. But this isn't mainstream music. Friday night I listened to Wylie & The Wild West. Wylie plays Western music; it ain't country and it ain't bluegrass, and he included some incredible cowboy poetry recited by one of his friends - then he performs it again as song. This was followed by Paul Williams & The Victory Trio performing Bluegrass gospel. An amazing three hours of music punctuated with a Cajun crab cake sandwich that was absolutely fabulous - the food at the Folk Festival is awesome, too. 

Saturday (today), I started the day with Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill playing Irish music on the fiddle and guitar. I followed up with  Khogzhumchu; they are Tuvan Throat-singers from Russia in Central Asia, on their first trip to America. I can't imagine how they must feel now. When I watched them perform on stage in a tent with approximately 500 seats, there were another 200 seats outside the tent, and another 300-400 standing around them! All participating in the "sing-alongs" and giving Khogzhumchu a standing ovation - it is an amazing musical genre. Dennis Stephens played traditional Church Organ music on a foot-pumped organ. The Jerry Douglas Band is a Bluegrass innovator and plays Bluegrass with a dobro, fiddle, upright bass, guitar and drums. La Gran Banda is a Columbian brass band. WOW! What a musical adventure! I saw traditional crafts, and listened to "front porch music" (you figure it out). I also saw old friends, made new friends and thoroughly enjoyed seeing everyone there smiling and tapping their feet.

But the real reason I write is to suggest that if you want to go adventuring, here is a way to do it, and include the whole family. The Richmond Folk Festival draws thousands of people from all over. Everywhere I looked I saw families with kids of all ages. Babies in strollers, toddlers holding onto mommy's hand, and most importantly, youth from around 12 to 18 out with friends on their own. Also, moms and dads letting the kids play "over there" with all the other kids while they enjoyed the music. These are parents who realize that our communities are basically safe places, and have raised kids that they can trust to "go play" (with strange kids, no less) with no worry about them getting snatched or running away and getting lost. Of course, in a crowd of 185,000, there are so many easily identified volunteers, staff members, and cops, a lost kid couldn't stay lost very long if he didn't want to!

Lenore Skenazy, in her book, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry, has small sections describing "baby steps" to going free-range. This is a chance for you to take a "baby step" in adventuring! Here's how:

I'll bet almost everyone in this country lives within reasonable driving distance of a festival of this sort. Richmond alone has the Greek Festival, the 2nd Street Festival, the Watermelon Festival, Innsbrook Afterhours, and many, many more. So find one near you, plan on it, and attend! Take the kids, and let them roam with friends. Set a meeting time and place, and be sure they understand the rules - yeah, the rules. They should know when and where to meet you - every two or three hours if you're making this an all day event. And what to do if someone creeps you out with an inappropriate advance. Oh yeah - another rule {VeryBigFrown}, stay with your buddy {VeryImportant}. If you just can't resist, let them have the cell phone. But please, promise NOT to harass them every 15 minutes as long as they check in as required - here's a tip, make the first check in an hour out - if they show up, give them 2 more. Added freedom for being responsible. And keep the cell phone in your pocket! Unfortunately, they won't keep it in their pocket, they'll be too busy texting their friends telling them about their adventure and making their friends jealous. This will be an adventure they won't forget.

Go for it! Go have FUN! Once you realize that you can adventure on a scale like this, it is much easier to plan larger and larger adventures. Next time, on The Expert on the World: New York City with 25 boy scouts (and 2 scared moms). 

For more information about the Richmond Folk Festival, visit their website, RichmondFolkFestival.org. If you live within a couple or three hours drive of Richmond, put it on your calendar for next year! And bring the kids so they can make new friends and be exposed to some great adventures in music and fun!

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